Becoming a widow in Nigeria is often followed by a fall into extreme poverty – a situation usually aggravated by widespread practice of property grabbing and sometimes, physical abuse. Consequently, they are subjected to food insecurity due to poverty or unemployment, failure to find basic and school necessities for their children, lack of shelter, difficulty in accessing working capital for small-scale businesses, and victimization by harmful cultural practices.
In many traditional settings, the death of a husband can put women at the risk of social segregation and the loss of the security and social status their partners would have provided. They are immediately banished to the fringe of society and suffer different forms of stigma and discrimination.
For any nation or society interested in fostering progressive development, it is important that citizens create a social climate conducive for collective achievement. Apart from the need to adopt a friendly culture that dignifies victims and recognizes their pain, widows need support systems that provide opportunities to reintegrate into society after the loss of their spouses.
If we are going to achieve this, everyone needs to understand that widows are extremely disadvantaged. In a country where culture and tradition are used as tool to oppress disadvantaged women, we have a collective responsibility to overcome these barriers with practical solutions to alleviate their poverty and helplessness. Either as a corporate imperative or individual responsibility, actions and decisions have to be taken to rehabilitate widows disenfranchised by poverty and unemployment.
Consider Lipton’s ‘Reason To Smile’, an initiative by Unilever Plc.’s leading tea brand which is aimed at supporting 1,000 Nigerian widows with necessary care packs and seed fund to start a business. Expected to be executed in states across Nigeria, the Lipton ‘Reasons to Smile’ campaign is also giving all concerned Nigerians the opportunity to get involved with one Lipton pack at a time, give widows a reason to smile and lighten their burden.
In many Nigerian communities where a lot of women are housewives, fully dependent on their husbands, it becomes a great challenge when such families lose their breadwinner and find it difficult to cater for themselves and their children. These women need to be given a helping hand – a lifeline to create a better future for themselves and their communities in general.
The challenges that widows in our communities and cities experience daily affects everyone. They are our mothers, sisters, friends, neighbours and more. They remain one of the most marginalized persons, a depressing reality that has dealt a blow to compassion and decorum in our society. The least we can do is to care for them and also provide them with opportunities for solutions – which is the objective of the Lipton brand.
Widows need be celebrated and encouraged. They are an integral part of our society and deserve as much respect and dignity as anyone else. As women and mothers, they are active members of the Nigerian society who contribute to national development. We cannot allow them to be victimized and subjected to untold hardships just because they lost a loved one, Lipton is saying we have the power to lighten their burden and put smiles on their faces.